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Big Blue View mailbag: Leonard Williams, Evan Neal, draft questions, more

The mail’s here!

We are another week closer to the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s open up this week’s Big Blue View Mailbag and see what New York Giants questions we can answer.

Paul Oliveira asks: Earlier on there was talk about renegotiating Leonard Williams contact, as his 2023 salary cap hit is I believe around $32M. Any latest news about a possible renegotiation?

Ed says: Paul, there has not been any chatter I’m aware of lately. It doesn’t sound like it’s something the Giants want to do. Here is what GM Joe Schoen said recently:

“If his cap number is high, his cash, if he doesn’t miss any games, I don’t think it’s out of whack. We’ll try to figure it out. But to go to one of your better players and say, ‘Take a pay cut,’ and you don’t have any leverage, we’re probably not going to. We like Leonard. We haven’t had any conversations with him. I know he made that comment (about taking a pay cut). We kind of joke about it, but we haven’t approached him about anything.”

Now, honestly, extending Williams’ contract has to be a possibility. Considering that they need more cap space than the $2.299 million Over The Cap currently shows them with, I’m not sure how they get around not doing something with Williams. It sounds like they would rather not, though.

Richard Lewis asks: Do you expect Bobby McCain to start at safety? If so, how much of a performance drop would you anticipate, if any at all, from Julian Love as the starter?

Ed says: Richard, it’s too early for me to know that with any certainty. The Giants have McCain, Dane Belton and Jason Pinnock already. They have the draft coming up, and other veterans who will become available along the way. OTAs haven’t started and it will he several weeks before we get a look at the Giants on the field. Yes, Love is a good player and it would have been nice to keep him. Will there be a dropoff? McCain is a pretty good player, as the film study below from Nick Falato shows. Let’s see how Belton and Pinnock develop and what the Giants do in the draft.

Martin J. Goldstein asks: Love the new regime and all they’ve done. My question. Do the guys really not care RE size of a receiver or do you think it’s a ploy. Flowers/Wan’Dale are small and elusive. Wouldn’t it be of great value to have an outside threat that can not only get separation but also be a big red zone target.

Ed says: Martin, I don’t think what Joe Schoen said about the Giants valuing separation skills over size is a ploy. I think those are the types of receivers Brian Daboll succeeded with in Buffalo and Mike Kafka worked with in Kansas City. I also think that NFL passing attacks are becoming more and more horizontal, about scheming guys open and creating touches with easy throws. Smaller players with quickness and make defenders miss ability fit that.

I think the Giants showed us last year that size is not a pre-requisite, when they drafted the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Wan’Dale Robinson instead of 6-3, 200-pound George Pickens (who was one of my draft favorites) or the 6-3, 213-pound Alec Pierce.

Now, would it be nice to have a guy who has size AND separation ability? Of course it would. Every team would love to have Ja’Marr Chase. or Davante Adams. If the Giants can find one they think fits what they do I’m sure they would love to have him. There just aren’t a lot of those guys around. If you can get one that’s great, but you don’t draft a guy just because he’s big if you think the smaller guy is better. Besides, the Giants might look at Darren Waller to fill that big receiver role.

Donald Poucher asks: I would like your opinion on why a practice squad player would reject an offer from another team. Last season Jarrad Davis reportedly refused to sign the Giants offer for several weeks, preferring or stay with the Lions. Why would a player do that, since they are guaranteed to be on the roster for several weeks and it should be a hefty increase in salary?

Ed says: Donald, there could be any number of reasons. Jarrad Davis is a veteran player who had until coming to the Giants spent all but nine games of his six-year career with the Detroit Lions. There were reports that Davis didn’t want to move, or move away from his family. There is Davis’ love for Michigan, where he had been most of his career. Davis appeared to want to hang in as long as possible in Detroit, hoping/believing that the Lions would eventually find a spot on their 53-man roster for him. He finally said yes to the Giants’ overtures when it became clear to him he was going to be stuck on Detroit’s practice squad.

When Alex Tanney was a player he used to get offers from teams to jump from practice squads to 53-man rosters. I remember him telling me that one year when he was on the Tennessee Titans practice squad he had an opportunity to go to the Cleveland Browns, where he might have ended up as the starter. He turned it down for family reasons.

I believe Davis Webb received some overtures last season, but liked being in the position he was in with a familiar offense and familiar coaches. He didn’t want to start over.

A young player who has not had that real opportunity and a veteran player with other things to consider might look the situations differently. Perspectives, and priorities, change as we get older.

Jeff Graham asks: I recognize that Evan Neal is only 22 years old and was a consensus All-American at Alabama. I also recognize that you and the Giants’ coaching staff believe he is the future at right tackle. What I don’t understand is why? If I recall correctly, Andrew Thomas had a bad first year But was showing significant improvement by the end of the season. I don’t get to see many Giant games living in Colorado but do read Big Blue View faithfully and don’t remember you and other contributors remarking after the last several games that Mr. Neal was showing significant improvement. Also, the statistical ratings for Mr. Neal I see on Big Blue View indicate that he was one of the worst tackles in the NFL. I am not trying to be argumentative just am trying to understand what facts drive the belief that right tackle tackle is no longer a problem.

Ed says: Jeff, I can’t guarantee that Evan Neal is the long-term answer at right tackle. No one can until he proves it. My main point has been that it is far too soon to give up on the idea that Neal can play that position well. The young man is too gifted athletically, has too good a pedigree and had too much success at the highest level of college football, and the Giants have too much invested (the No. 7 overall pick in 2022) to give up on the idea that he can be a quality right tackle after one season.

I also believe there are other circumstances. Neal played every position except center at Alabama and last year was the fifth consecutive season in which he lined up at a different spot. He also admitted that some of what he was asked to do last year technique-wise was different. I am an advocate of giving him a second year at one position to see if it will help him settle in.

If you really look at how Neal played last season he had the awful game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3. He then did show improvement, with a solid four-week stretch where he surrendered just one sack and his lowest Pro Football Focus grade for any single week was 52.0.

Then, he got hurt. He missed six weeks with a knee injury and was never the same the rest of season. Even though he returned, I’m not sure he was ever healthy. He was very tight-lipped about that, and the Giants said at the end of the year that he played through some things.

I have had the opportunity to be around Neal and speak to him some. He is an accountable young man, he cares about his craft, he went into the offseason knowing he had work to do, and he has been doing it — with the help of former All-Pro offensive lineman Willie Anderson.

The Giants drafted Neal because they thought he could bookend their offensive line along with Andrew Thomas. I just believe it is too early to abandon the hope that he can.

Daniel Malone asks: Given all the various NYG position needs, do you think that this year they should just concentrate on either just the defense or offense on the draft? I think that given the contract commitment to Daniel Jones they should just provide all the offensive assets they can get in the 2023 draft and see what the offense can really do in 2023. I think Jones is perfect for an offense that can make some big plays but has the ability to play short pass and run and pound ball control and keep the defense rested and and opposing offense off the field. What do you think of this option?

Ed says: Daniel, no, I do not think that is a good idea. As Joe Schoen says all the time, he is building a team. That team includes defensive players and special teamers. Yes, the Giants have needs at receiver and the offensive line. They also have needs at linebacker, edge, defensive line, cornerback, safety and linebacker. Pretty much everywhere across the defense. They can’t just ignore them.

James Adams asks: I’ve read in the mailbag that Daboll likes receivers that get open and I agree to a point however, having a big physical receiver that can go up and get the ball and make contested catches is a necessity the Giants are lacking. Hodgins has some size but I don’t see him as a physical receiver. Flowers will probably be a good receiver but he’s basically the same players as Robinson. There are several day two receivers who are bigger receivers. Wouldn’t it make sense to take the best CB available in the first round. Target a C in the 2nd and find a WR with some size in the third round? I know LB is a need but with Okereke, Davis, McFadden and Beavers returning from injury it seems we have less of a need there. Ojulari and Thibodeaux with Ward backing them up on the edge also makes it unlikely we would use draft capital early there. There are a lot of d lineman who would be available in the 4th and 5th as well. Whatcha think?

Ed says: James, what I think is that you are espousing the ‘take position A in Round 1, position B in Round 2, position C in Round 3’ theory of drafting. I have said for years and will say again that the draft does not work this way and trying to pigeon hole ahead of time what position you will draft in each round leads to mistakes.

You go into the draft hoping to come away with players at certain positions. There are 31 other teams drafting, though, so you never know exactly how things will work out and who will be available when you pick. If you say ‘I’m drafting a cornerback in Round 1 regardless’ what happens if your turn comes up and you have eight to 10 players graded higher than the top cornerback on your board? Are you still taking the cornerback? No, you’re not. Or, at least you shouldn’t. If you do, you are making a mistake that will likely haunt you in the long run. You take the better player. If you have three or four guys with the same grade you look at your roster and your scheme and then make your choice based on who you think could fill the biggest need.

Nikki Kreitz asks: I know that the general consensus is that Joe Schoen made the right decision to decline DJ’s 5th year option. In hindsight it wasn’t correct. Do you think Schoen did his complete due diligence and factored in everything that was negative which included coaching and limited high-end personnel? While ignoring the positive, primarily Daniel Jones going 4-7 in 2021 and aside from a couple of blowouts by good teams he kept this crappy team competitive and should/could have won a couple more. Then this team proceeded to go 0-6 without him. I think his mistake in declining the option was compounded by the cheap cost of said option.

Ed says: Nikki, I have said this before but I absolutely think the Giants did the right thing at the time by declining Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option. And, yes, I think Schoen understood all the variables. You can only weigh what you know at the time, and at the time it would have been foolish for the Giants to tie themselves to Jones for 2023. At the time they had to make the decision, they had not even seen Jones on the practice field.

Odds were heavily against Jones convincing a new GM and head coach that he was the right guy to go forward with at quarterback long-term. NFL history tells us new regimes almost always move on and find their own guy. Schoen, correctly, relied on that history. Even he admitted when I asked him at the combine that he is surprised to be here with Jones.

The Giants made the right decision at the time to make him prove it. He did.

Bryan Camacho asks: If they remain available, should the Giants look to add Rock Ya-Sin or Dalton Risner? I would assume the longer they sit out there, the more the price for them drops and they seem like they would be immediate upgrades?

Ed says: Bryan, what the Giants need to continue to do — and are doing as they have had some available free agents in for visits — is upgrade the roster wherever it makes sense.

Does it make sense with the two players you mentioned?

In the case of Risner, I say no. Yes, he’s fine as a player. The Giants, though, have very limited financial resources to work with and a plethora of players who could be the left guard — Ben Bredeson, Josh Ezeudu, Marcus McKethan, Shane Lemieux, Jack Anderson are all possibilities.

In the case of Ya-Sin, again is he do much better than what the Giants have or what they might draft that he would be worth the cost? I’m not so sure. The Giants spent a high draft pick a year ago on Cor’Dale Flott. The previous regime spent a high pick on Aaron Robinson, who has looked good when he has been healthy. Free agent signee Amani Oruwariye is intriguing. I think at this point the Giants’ best path for finding help at cornerback is in the draft.

You also have to remember that the Giants are currently at a budgetary point where they are pretty much only able to offer veteran salary benefit minimum deals. I am not sure either of those guys will play for that.

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